Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley


Here it comes, The Ballymaloe House ‘sweet trolley’ is legendary indeed. For over 50 years, now it has been wheeled around the dining rooms at Ballymaloe House piled high with tempting desserts to tantalize guests at the end of their meal. The first cart was made in the 1960’s by the carpenter, Danny Power, in his farm workshop to Myrtle Allen’s specifications. A shelf on top with a little ledge around the edge to hold the array of desserts and another underneath for plates, serving utensils and top ups. Ever since it has delighted diners. The “trolley dolly”  as the server is affectionately known is usually greeted with a whoop of delight or at least an appreciative murmur when they wheel their cart up to the table. All conversation ceases as the entire table listens to the description of the temptations on offer, home-made Ballymaloe ice-cream served in an ice bowl, a meringue cake or a pretty fluted dish piled high with little “kisses” sandwiched together with a tangy homemade lemon curd and always a compote of fruit in season. Tonight it’s poached pears in a saffron and cardamom syrup. Always a tart of some kind too, made with buttery puff pastry or perhaps a chocolate and hazelnut or almond tart in a buttery short crust.

There may be a fruit fool, tonight it’s blackcurrant from the Ballymaloe walled garden in the Summer and served with JR’s heart shaped shortbread biscuits, a recipe passed on from 1950’s in Ballymaloe kitchen. Many of the recipes have a story. Tonight panna cotta is served in glass pedestal bowls with an espresso jelly made with the coffee beans roasted on the farm by Mark Kingston of The Golden Bean, who sources his ethically produced beans from single estates around the world.

The coffee jelly lightens the rich panna cotta deliciously. This is JR’s inspired version of the Italian dessert which is every bit as unctuous as a crème brûlée, another Ballymaloe sweet trolley favourite served with a thin layer of caramel on top rather than torched as is more the norm nowadays. JR Ryall, is head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House and has been for over 10 years. He came to work with Mrs Allen during his school holidays when he was just 14, he joined the team permanently when he finished his education and has only left for short periods ever since when he travels all round the world, always on the look out for something new to add to his recipe repertoire. However both he and all of us still love the original recipes that Myrtle Allen first served from the first evening in 1965 when she and Ivan decided to open the doors at Ballymaloe House to welcome guests “to dine in a country house”. The plan was never to have more than 20 people …. An extraordinary thing to do at that time when restaurants and hotels were in cities and towns and certainly not out in the centre of a farm – unthinkable,  the rest is history. The sweet trolley was very 1960’s – Arbutus Lodge in Cork also had a wonderful sweet trolley that we all enjoyed. I particularly  remember the oeufs à la neige or floating islands of feather light meringue and the boozy rum babas.

And now the sweet trolley so beloved of Ballymaloe guests and considered in the 80’s and 90’s to be a bit passé is once again having its moment and are reappearing as a special feature in trendy restaurants.

The selection changes every evening and of course reflects the season and JR’s excitement.   Myrtle has always loved to incorporate little tastes of our local and traditional food into her menu.

Carrigeen Moss pudding, so much part of our traditional food culture is also a much loved feature of the Ballymaloe, little pots of the light delicate mousse with fluffy tops are still found on the Ballymaloe sweet trolley every evening.

The homemade ice-cream or granitas are chosen from a selection of 12 or 14 that JR makes, and continues to add to. The sorbets are made with the ripe berries from the garden. The ice-cream was originally made from the rich Jersey cream from Ivan Allen’s herd of purebred Jersey cows. Tonight there are also a chocolate marjorlaine and pistachio tuiles to enjoy with the fool – all impossibly tempting and delicious.

Ballymaloe Praline Ice-Cream with Praline Brittle

The praline can be made from almonds, hazelnuts or pecans.


Serves 6 – 8

110g (4oz) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream



110g (4oz) unskinned almonds

110g (4oz) sugar

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues).  Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, 106-113°C (223-236°F). It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads.  Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Add vanilla extract and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick creamy white mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Meanwhile make the praline.  Put the unskinned almonds with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, DO NOT STIR, when this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold, when the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.


After about 1 1/2 hours when the ice cream is just beginning to set, fold in the 4 tablespoons of praline powder and freeze again. If you fold in the praline too early it will sink to the bottom of the ice cream. To serve, scoop out into balls with an ice cream scoop. Serve in an ice bowl, sprinkle with the remainder of the praline powder.

Hazelnut Praline Ice-Cream

Substitute skinned hazelnuts for almonds in the above recipe and proceed as above.



Gateau Marjolaine

This is a definitely one of JR Ryall’s iconic desserts. It’s a bit of a mission to make but so worth it.

Makes 2 gateau, serves 20-24


Nut Meringue

8 egg whites

225g (8oz) sugar

175g (6oz) ground hazelnuts

200g (7oz) ground almonds


Beat the egg whites, gradually add sugar and continuing to beat until mixture is a stiff meringue. Fold in the ground nuts. Spread 8mm thick (1/3 inch) onto 2 lined rectangular tray and bake for 5 minutes in a preheated oven, 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7, until light golden brown and soft to the touch. When cold, cut each in half.


Chocolate Cream

360g (12oz) dark chocolate in small pieces

360g (12oz) soft unsalted butter


Melt the chocolate. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool until it becomes spreading consistency.


Butter Cream

75ml (3fl oz) milk

75g (3oz) sugar

2 egg yolks

225g (8oz) soft unsalted butter

75g (3oz) praline powder

2 tablespoons (kirsch


Bring milk and half the sugar to the boil. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and pour the boiling milk onto them. Stir over a low heat, until the mixture thickens. Strain into a bowl through a fine sieve. Beat using an electric mixer until the mixture has cooled. Fold in the butter. Divide between two bowls. Stir the praline into one half of the butter cream add the kirsch into the other.


To Assemble

Spread the first layer of meringue with one third of the chocolate cream, allow to set. Cover with the next layer of meringue and spread with the praline cream, then another layer of meringue and the kirsch cream and then the final meringue. Use a knife to neaten the sides and cut in half. Spread the remaining chocolate cream over each gateau.



Almond Tart with Kumquats and Mint

This gorgeous tart is deliciously rich and moist, we serve it with many fruits in season, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, cherries, roast rhubarb……….

Serves 10-12



225g (8oz) flour

25g (1oz) castor sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

1 egg


Almond Filling

285g (10oz) soft butter unsalted

225g (8oz) castor sugar

285g (10oz ) whole almonds

3 eggs

1 dessertspoon Amaretto or Rum or Kirch or Calvados

1 tablespoon of flour (optional)


Kumquat Compote (see recipe)

lots of fresh mint sprigs


1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin with ‘pop-up base


First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.


Whisk the egg. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.


Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.


Meanwhile, make the kumquat compote (see recipe).


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


Line the flan ring and bake blind for 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile make the almond filling. Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.


Cream the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy, add the freshly ground almonds, flour, eggs and amaretto if available. Pour into the pastry case, reduce the temperature to 160ºC/325°F/Gas Mark 3, and bake for 45-60 minutes.


Remove from the tin onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely.


Just before serving, drain the kumquats and arrange on top.  Tuck some little sprigs of fresh mint here and there between fruit or alternatively just serve with a slice of almond tart and serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream.


Kumquat Compôte

A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham.  Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt.

Serves 12-40 depending on how it is served


470g (17oz) kumquats

400ml (14fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.



Irish Coffee Meringue

Another gem with an Irish twist.


Serves 6-8

2 egg whites

110g (4oz) icing sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder (not granules)



300m (10fl oz) whipped cream

2 tablespoons approx. Irish whiskey



chocolate coffee beans

parchment paper


Draw 2 x 7½ inch (18cm) circles onto a sheet of parchment paper. Then turn them over so the pencil or pen doesn’t mark the meringue.


Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry bowl. Add all the icing sugar except 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons). Whisk until the mixture stands in firm dry peaks. It may take 10-15 minutes. Sieve the coffee and the remaining icing sugar together and fold in carefully.


Spread the meringue carefully with a palette knife onto the circles on the parchment paper.  Bake in a very low oven 150°C\300°F\Gas Mark 2 for approx. 1 hour or until crisp. The discs should peel easily from the paper.  Allow to get quite cold.

Add the whiskey to the whipped cream.


Sandwich the meringue discs together with Irish whiskey flavoured cream. Pipe 5 rosettes of cream on top. Decorate with chocolate coffee beans if available.


Irish Coffee Meringue Roulade

Ingredients as above x 2

Irish Coffee Sauce (see recipe)


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


Meanwhile, line a swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide)


Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.


Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work – top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.


To Assemble

Spread the whiskey cream over the meringue, roll up from the long side and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate with chocolate coffee beans.


Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick accompanied by Irish Coffee Sauce.


Irish Coffee Sauce
This irresistible sauce keeps for several months and you’ll find yourself drizzling it over ice-cream, crêpes and even French toast.


175g (6oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) water

225ml (8fl oz) coffee

1 tablespoon Irish whiskey


Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; stir until the sugar dissolves and the water comes to the boil.  Remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup turns a chestnut caramel.  Then add the coffee and put back on the heat to dissolve.  Allow to cool and add the whiskey.



JR’s Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly

This is a delicious variation on a classic Panna Cotta. Serve with wafer thin Langue de Chat biscuits for a special treat.
Serves 6-8 people

600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream
50g (2oz) castor sugar
1 vanilla pods, split lengthways
2 gelatine leaves (or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine)
cold water for soaking gelatine leaves (or 3 tablespoons water if using powdered Gelatine)

1 x espresso jelly recipe (see below)

1 pedestal glass bowl

Panna cotta
Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pod and castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Squeeze excess water from the leaves, add to the hot cream mixture and stir to dissolve. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod (rinse the vanilla pod in warm water, allow to dry and save for later). Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before pouring into the pedestal bowl. To save time the hot cream mixture can be stirred over an ice bath to cool it faster. Place in the fridge and allow to set. Carefully spoon over the cooled, but not yet set, coffee jelly. Return to the fridge and allow to set.

If using powdered gelatine: Sponge the gelatine in 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) water. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Remove the vanilla pod and continue as above.

Espresso Jelly

very strong hot coffee
45g (1½ oz) castor sugar
1¼gelatine leaves (1¼ teaspoon powdered gelatine)

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Meanwhile, place sugar in a measuring jug and add enough coffee until there is 200ml (7fl oz) in total, stir to dissolve. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine leaves, add to the hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

Note: Allowing the Panna cotta mixture to cool before decanting into the glass serving dish will prevent vanilla seeds from pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Instead, they stay in suspension and look much prettier.

Variation: To make a more special version of this dessert the panna cotta can be layered in a glass bowl with the jelly. For a good result make 3 x espresso jelly recipe and set the panna cotta in 3 layers, each separated with a layer of the jelly. Each layer must be allowed to set completely before the next layer is poured over. The resulting dessert is both eye catching and delicious.


Rory O’Connell’s Pistachio Langues de Chat

These thin biscuits are so called as they are supposed to resemble the shape of cats tongues. Rory likes to shape these into long and skinny biscuits so perhaps more like a lizards tongue, but that name would not really sell them very well. Regardless of the length, they should be quite thin and delicate. He serve them with mousses, fools, soufflés, ices of all sorts and of course with a cup of tea or coffee. The flavouring here is vanilla but orange or lemon zest or ground sweet spices such as cinnamon or star anise also works well. Finely chopped nuts such as pistachio, almond, pecan or brazil nuts can be scattered over the shaped and uncooked batter to give a lovely crunchy and flavoursome finish.

Serves 8


125g (4½ oz) soft butter

125g (4½ oz)caster sugar

4 egg whites

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

175g (6oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) pistachio, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas 4

Line a flat baking tray with parchment paper

Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously until pale and fluffy.

Add the sifted flour, vanilla extract and egg whites and fold gently with a spatula until the mixture is combined. It will look like a thick batter.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with 1cm nozzle or use a “disposable”  plastic piping bag and just snip off the top with a scissors to give exactly the size needed. I wash and dry the bag and keep it for the next time.

Pipe onto to baking tray in long thin rows 1cm thick and 10cm long.

Scatter the finely chopped pistachio on top of the batter.

Bake for 12 minutes by which time they will have coloured generously around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool still on the parchment lined baking tray. When cool remove to wire rack and store in an airtight box lined with kitchen paper.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes